Well, that’s dramatic isn’t it? From the headline on this Yahoo piece, you’d get the idea that somehow Nebraska effectively murdered the child and forced the parents to watch.

Nope. Actually, the law in question is Nebraska’s new law forbidding abortion after twenty weeks gestation except for particular circumstances.

The story is heartbreaking. The mother’s water broke at just past 20 weeks gestation, and doctors told her it was “unlikely” the baby would live. And so the parents decided they wanted a “termination,” but given the new law, couldn’t get one:

The Deavers were sent home to wait. Eight days later, contractions started, and Deaver delivered a beautiful, 1 lb. 10 oz. little girl named Elizabeth. She was physically perfect, but born too early to survive, even with medical help. And so they held her and waited.

Today the Deavers are speaking out. Although the law can protect babies, it also can hurt women who are in unique situations like Deaver’s. She believes that no family should have to go through what they went through. The new law is based on research that shows that babies past 20 weeks’ gestation can feel pain because their nerves are developed enough. But Deaver thinks that it doesn’t take into account unusual and heart-wrenching situations like her own.

God forbid any of us are ever in that situation; as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into the time of testing.” I’m thus hesitant to criticize the parents, especially when they and all of us are living in a culture whose pleasure-seeking, pain-avoiding ethos produces a “better off dead” mentality. (Indeed, note that the law itself is predicated upon the ability of fetuses to feel pain.) The “better off dead” mentality is our societal default. How should the parents know any better?

That said, I’d ask this question: Is it really better to terminate such a baby in the womb? Assuming the abortionist would have anesthetized her — and that’s far from certain — it would have been a relatively painless form of euthanasia.

But then the baby would never have known love. As it happened, the baby was born, named, and held until she expired. In Elizabeth’s short life, she knew her parents’ love on a very basic level as they held her. She knew love!

Abortion would have robbed Elizabeth of that. She wouldn’t have even had a name, doubting as I do her parents would have named her. She wouldn’t have known love, only the cold instruments of surgical technique.

Further, the story doesn’t mention baptism, but aborting fetuses with grave medical issues also robs them of the graces of baptism. Indeed, the Latin-rite Code of Canon Law 871 requires that fetuses that happen to survive an abortion be baptized immediately when discovered. For us Catholics, the unborn are persons and baptism is that important. And don’t think it doesn’t happen; a close physician friend of mine found a living, aborted fetus in a closet at a major hospital in North Carolina when he was in medical school. There’s also the case of Gianna Jessen.

A better option: Let the child live. Let the child know love. Suffer with the child. As did the parents of little Thomas, who lived five days after birth. This video telling the family’s story is incredibly moving. It’s a must-watch.

Yes, little Elizabeth suffered, and her parents suffered too. But suffering is the price of love. Love is vulnerable. Perhaps we’re a cold, loveless culture precisely because we avoid pain at all costs. We’ve no compassion because we flee passion.

UPDATE: LifeNews on a Romanian “miracle baby” who has survived 8 months without an intestine: “A miracle baby has survived for eight months despite the fact that he has no intestine. The story provides parents hope about the resiliency of new born to survive long odds that doctors may suggest are too difficult to overcome and should be dealt with via an abortion.”